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Diet Solutions: Cut Sugar

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Healthy Food Imposter: Crystal Light
by BrandDoctorKerry

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   (63 votes)

Oh my Gawd!!!

It's the phrase we uttered most during our recent BestBrands shopping spree. Yes, your trusted food sleuths were regularly freaked out by the plethora of Healthy Food Imposters they found lurking on grocery store shelves from coast to coast.

With so many foods and drinks trying to pass themselves off as "healthy," we decided it might be insightful - not to mention fun - incorporating "The Healthy Food Imposter of the Month" award into our regular lineup. In order to be eligible for this award, a product must meet the following criteria:

Criteria #1: Extremely misleading information on the front label

Criteria #2: Three or more harmful junk ingredients

Criteria #3: Deceptive health claims (blatant or implied)

Criteria #4: A high shock value… the OMG response, if you will!

Our first recipient of this infamous award goes to (the envelope please)...

Crystal Light Immunity On The Go
Cherry Pomegranate

Serving: 5 calories, 0g fat, 10mg sodium, 1g carbs, 0% vitamin A, 0% calcium, 20% vitamin C and 0% iron)

INGREDIENTS: Citric Acid, Maltodextrin, Modified Cornstarch, Natural Flavor, Aspartame (Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine), Red 40, Contains Less than 2% of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Vitamin E Acetate, Beta Carotene, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium and Potassium Bicarbonate, Magnesium Oxide, Acesulfame Potassium, Blue 1.

Criteria #1: Extremely Misleading Information on the Front Label

These individually packaged drink mixtures are intended to be added to water to boost flavor and improve your health. The front label clearly states "Immunity on the Go" and "Cherry Pomegranate." Both terms imply that the powder will boost your immune system and provide antioxidant health benefits via the fruit.

However, after decoding the fine print, the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredients list tell a different tale.

For starters, each serving only provides 20% RDA for vitamin C, 0% for vitamin A, 0% calcium, and 0% iron; we're not really seeing a whole lot of immune boosting going on here.

Then, we find very little evidence that natural cherry and pomegranate exist in the mix. We did however find two artificial color ingredients clearly used to give the mixture the illusion that there was some real fruit involved.

Criteria #2: Three or More Harmful Junk Ingredients

We found a total of 15 ingredients - eight are potentially harmful chemical additives (junk ingredients), including:

Two artificial colors (Red 40 and Blue 1)

Two artificial sweeteners (aspartame and acesulfame potassium)

One refined sweetener (maltodextrin)

Two preservatives (sodium and potassium bicarbonate)

One thickener (modified cornstarch)

Enough said.

Criteria #3: Deceptive Health Claims (Blatant or Implied)

According to the Crystal Light Web sit, this variety is part of their "enhanced line that contains essential nutrients designed to hydrate you, energize and enhance your body's natural defenses." The site also states, "our bodies need water to function, to flush out the bad stuff…"

Really? This product is the BAD STUFF that needs to be flushed out! It's filled with some of the worst chemical additives and they counteract any benefit that you might receive from the water. In fact, this product could actually be detrimental to your health.

Oh my Gawd! (and, thus we meet Criteria #4)

Bottom Line: We found no immunity properties, no significant antioxidants (read: health benefits) and certainly no cherry or pomegranate!

Crystal Light Immunity On The Go Cherry Pomegranate exceeds the criteria needed to win our first-ever HFI of the Month Award!

Reality Check

Nothing replaces the benefits of plain old filtered tap water. It's detoxifying, cleansing and keeps you from getting dehydrated.

We recommend you save your money and stick with the real deal. You'll avoid the chemical additives that can sink your resolve to get healthier! If drinking tap water just doesn't do it for you, then trying adding a squirt of REAL lemon or orange juice to spice things up!

Remember, when you're armed with a little BrandAid know-how, you're in control at the grocery store.

Kerry McLeod is's chief Brand Doctor and a blogger here at Kerry's mission in life is to teach food shoppers how to cut through the clutter at the grocery store in order to find the truly healthy brand-name foods. If smart food shopping appeals to you, go to and sign up for free newsletters.

May 24, 2010


BEWARE: Toxins In Your Favorite Drinks!
by BrandDoctorKerry

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   (31 votes)

by Kerry McLeod
Chief Brand Doctor

Fingers on your buzzers players. It's time to play Putting Your Health in Jeopardy!

In which of the following products are you most likely to find the cancer-causing agent benzene?

A. Gasoline
B. Explosives
C. Laundry detergent
D. Tropicana Twister diet soda
E. All of the above

Cue the Jeopardy theme song… da, da, da, da, da, da… duh?!

The correct answer is E - all of the above!

That's right folks. Our food sleuths at discovered that benzene - which is listed by health authorities as a cancer-causing carcinogen - is not only found in explosives and laundry detergent, but it's also lurking in some of our favorite beverages!

Shocking, but true. The obvious follow-up question: Why would beverage manufacturers slip benzene into their products?

Don't bother scanning the label of the drinks you have in your fridge or pantry. You won't find benzene listed anywhere. What you might find is ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and sodium or potassium benzoate. Alone, these additives are considered safe. However, when combined, they react to form the scary substance benzene!

This carcinogenic combo is found in all kinds of sodas (regular and diet), as well as juice drinks like Kool-Aid Jammers, Country Time Lemonade, and several Tropicana varieties.

Check out the ingredients that create this diet soda.

Tropicana Twister Diet Orange Soda


It clearly shows that both potassium benzoate and ascorbic acid are present. So, what the heck is this drink doing on grocery store shelves?

Well, drinks like Tropicana Twister have been tested for benzene. Most were found to have benzene levels below the legal limit. According to the FDA, this means they're safe for consumption. Hmmm, can any amount of benzene really be safe?

We're already exposed to benzene from car exhaust and cleaning products so should we play with fire and consume even more in our beverages?

Reality Check

For over a decade now the FDA has been slapping the beverage industry on the wrist for failing to control benzene levels. And while existing beverage makers have been warned, every year hundreds of new beverages enter the market, and manufacturers still seem clueless about the toxic combination of benzoate and ascorbic acid.

Scores of popular beverages contain the deadly duo.

Folks, we can't wait around for the FDA to work through all the red tape and recall beverages that contain sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid. Before you buy your favorite beverage, read the label! If it contains the volatile ingredients, leave it on the store shelf and opt for filtered water or additive-free, 100% fruit juice.

Bottom line: There are over 3,000 additives used in our current food supply. Due to a lack of testing, we can't be sure that there aren't more additive combos out there imposing risks to our health.

Our Final Jeopardy question: What do the chemical sweetener aspartame and potassium sorbate form when combined?

Answer: Your guess is as good as ours!

Kerry McLeod is's chief Brand Doctor and a blogger here at Kerry's mission in life is to teach food shoppers how to cut through the clutter at the grocery store in order to find the truly healthy brand-name foods. If smart food shopping appeals to you, go to and sign up for free newsletters.

May 17, 2010


Sugar Soap Opera
by DrDiet

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   (26 votes)

High fructose corn syrup, the sweetener that has gotten a bad rap for worsening the obesity epidemic, got a reprieve from the American Medical Association this week.

As reported by CBS News, “At a meeting in Chicago, AMA delegates backed a resolution that argues that there’s no scientific proof that high fructose corn syrup deserves the blame for obesity more than sugar or other caloric sweeteners. The resolution also nixes putting warning labels on products containing high fructose corn syrup.”

Several days later days, the headlines warned: Fructose sugar ‘fueling obesity!’ The feature went on to note a new study that showed too much fructose in the diet can lead to an increase in pot belly fat.

With such conflicting information, what’s a sweet-loving dieter to do?

First, let’s keep our eyes on the big picture of what we know to be the truth.

Too many calories in (and not enough expended) is the real culprit in the battle of the bulge. Whether those calories come from high fructose corn syrup, other caloric sugars, fats or even alcohol, it still means that a cut in calories is in order.

We talk a lot about limiting “empty calorie” foods like soft drinks, cookies, cakes, pies and ice cream. Yes, these foods may contain high fructose corn syrup. But the more important point is that they have lots of calories and little in the way of health-boosting nutrients.

The AMA reprieve for high fructose corn syrup is not really a “thumbs up” for the sweetener; it’s more an equally given “thumbs down” for all sugars.

Stay tuned for the next soap opera, As the Stomach Churns…

July 3, 2008


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